'Poverty affects women most'

HARARE - Epworth community leaders believe poverty is the biggest reason women’s health concerns remain unresolved in the peri-urban community.

Their sentiments were expressed in the wake of economic hardships that have seen an increase in unplanned pregnancies, prostitution and early age marriages in one of Zimbabwe’s poorest peri-urban areas.

Epworth-based Women Empowerment Group director Farai Makoni said women were failing to make good health decisions because they lack the knowledge.

“Just two weeks ago we had to intervene after a 13-year-old girl demanded conjugal rights from a 30-year-old man who is serving community service for impregnating her,” he said.

“A couple of months back, we handled a case involving an 11-year-old girl who was married off to a South African man.

“Her mother had been given groceries worth $100. It’s sad but these things are happening.”

Seventh Day Adventist Pastor Antonio Mare said churches were becoming more involved in assisting women to reach equality.

“The solution is awareness campaigns. We have our own awareness campaigns through Zimbabwe Adventist ministries and children ministries but that is not enough,” Mare said.

Patience Themba, a local resident, said girls’ health issues remain unresolved because parents’ grip on children has been loosened due to too many “children’s rights”.

“Some of these rights are helpful in that the girl child now has easier access to health care facilities but when you can’t discipline your child fearing the courts’ wrath then there is a problem,” she said.

In an effort to combat such problems, Padare in partnership with the Swedish Embassy, UNAids and the Government of Zimbabwe held a six-day seminar last week.

The event held public dialogues on gender, debating on the roles men can play in empowering girls and women.

Musician Itai Madzikura aka Madiz and Comedian Freddy “Kapfupi” Manjalima concluded the seminar on Saturday at Kubatana Primary School.

Padare communications officer Walter Vengesai said men need to play a leading role in easing the problems faced by girls and women.

“From the discussions we had, it was established that there is need for more role models who don’t just preach women empowerment but who practise it,” he said.

Zimbabwe HIV/Aids Activist Union Epworth coordinator Kennedy Mudzingwa said: “The ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development needs to be coordinating various health stakeholders in Epworth to go into all the wards and educate people."

"As it stands there are over 20 organisations in Epworth but there is no visibility or coordination,” he said.

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